Yiddish Word of the Week

Feb 20

Anonymous said: How do yu write the word strong and the word brave in hebrew? Like she is brave and she is strong or a brave woman or a strong woman but jus the two words brave and strong?

The feminine singular forms of the adjectives “brave” and “strong” in Hebrew are גבורה (gibborah) and חזקה (hazakah), respectively.

Feb 11

Anonymous said: What is the etymology of "גיך" (gikh - "quickly")?

Yiddish gikh is cognate with New High German jäh (=abrupt, precipitous). Both of them stem from common Middle High German roots; see here (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/jäh) for more details on the etymology of the latter (and thus the former, too).

Feb 05

Feb 01

Anonymous said: is word for newborn naphish not kimpotkind

The word for newborn with which I’m familiar is kimpetkindNefesh is generally used for “soul” or “creature,” as in Hebrew, the language from which it derives.

Dec 19

Anonymous said: Hello! A quick question: So "tate" is dad, and "tateleh" is the diminutive—but is "tateleh" also just an endearing term for anyone someone loves? I hear it used most often when a mother is addressing her child, and this is the way it's used in those SNL Linda Richman skits, but I was wondering if that was "real" Yiddish or more of an American thing.

Tatelemamele, and bobele certainly are authentic Yiddish diminutives, but when they started being used as endearments for young children, as opposed to for fathers, mothers, and grandmothers, respectively, is unclear to me. My searches in dictionaries and other sources have, unfortunately, turned up empty. It may be, as you say, that these usages only began after the War (in America or Israel); I honestly do not know. My own instinct would be to say that they preceded that point, since I’m not sure what about American or Israeli linguistic culture would prompt the development of these usages, but, again, I can’t say for certain, and the existing evidence (from silence) seems to be against this. Either way, it is a great question which deserves to be studied by someone more experienced than me.

Dec 17

Anonymous said: How should I pronounce "Chale" in a Jewish Bakery?

Probably the same way you pronounce it outside a Jewish bakery. As far as I know, there is no official Jewish bakery etiquette that requires that you pronounce the word in a particular way. So, if you’re used to saying khale, say khale. If you’re used to hallah, say that. If khallah or khalloh, those work, too. I think anything goes, as long as the clerk serving you understands your meaning. Worst comes to worst, you clarify by means of a description…

Dec 11

peterhk said: A slightly silly question, maybe, but I see that one of you is named Shaul. One of my uncles was Shail (at least that's how it was pronounced) which I guess is another version of the same name (Saul in English). Do you know if that's right? Is Shail the Yiddish version and Shaul the Hebrew one? TIA again, and thanks for your informative answers.

The simple answer to your question is yes. See Alexander Beider, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations(Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, Inc., 2001), 424, who lists Sheyl (or, in your spelling, Shail) as the Northeastern (=Lithuanian) Yiddish pronunciation of Hebrew Sha’ul (pronounced Shoyel in Central and Southeastern Yiddish).

Dec 10

Anonymous said: What happened to the Yiddish word of the week coming out weekly? The last time was 3 months ago

YWOTW is currently on hiatus due to looming deadlines, but we will be back soon!

Dec 05

peterhk said: A dank! Sorry to keep going on about this, but Weinreich gives מויל= moyl for (animal) mouth. Someone who does a bris is a moyel (מוהל). Is there much difference in pronunciation? TIA!

My version of Weinreich does not define moyl as having anything to do with animals in particular, just: “mouth; (gun) muzzle; orifice.” I still think pisk is the word reserved for animal mouths.

The pronunciation of the two words is in fact similar, though, depending on the speaker, there may be a bit of an extra vowel added in for the person who does the bris: moy-el. The word for “mouth” has a syllabic l at the end.

Anonymous said: Regarding pisk in the previous post: I remember that sour puss people were called "fruma pishkes" in my family, loosely translated as strict face. So, rather than punim, maybe pisk as a slang...just connecting dots. zie ga zunt. Shariellen

Sounds like a good interpretation to me! Especially because makhn piskes means “to make faces.” Seems likepisk could stand in for the whole face in certain Yiddish expressions via synecdoche.